Rirkrit Tiravanija

Curator Nicolas Bourriaud’s (b. France, 1965-) book Relational Aesthetics (1998)[1] offers a new methodology for critiquing contemporary artworks on the basis of the “inter- human relations which they represent, produce or prompt”.[4]  Rirkrit Tiravanija’s (b. Argentina, 1961-) artworks involve him preparing and serving traditional Thai food for his audience to convivially consume at gallery openings (Fig.11-12).[5]  Bourriaud terms artworks with this basis as relational art and discusses a wide range of artists from the 1990s whose work involves some form of participation.[6]  Bourriaud argues for the revolutionary potential of art that generates opportunities for social exchange and collective elaboration of meanings.[7]


[1] Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Paris: Presse Du Reel, 1998.

[2] Bishop, Claire, ‘Antagonism & Relational Aesthetics’ in October, No. 110 (Fall 2004).

[3] Bishop, Claire, ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents’ in Artforum, (Feb 2006), pp.179-185, http://onedaysculpture.org.nz/assets/images/reading/Bishop%20_%20Kester.pdf, [Accessed 18 Apr 2011].

[4] Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, 1998, p.112.

[5] Ibid., p.25.

[6] Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, 1998, p.113.

[7] Bishop, Claire, ‘Antagonism & Relational Aesthetics’ (Fall 2004), p.54.

‘The situation is not about looking at art. It is about being in the space, participating to an activity. The nature of the visit has shifted to emphasize on the gallery as a space for social interaction. The transfer of such activities as cooking, eating or sleeping into the realm of the exhibition space put visitors into very intimate if unexpected contact; the displacement creates an acute awareness of the notion of public and private, the installations function like scientific experiments: the displacement becomes a tool and exposes the way scientific thought processes are constructed. The visitor becomes a participant in that experiment.’

Source: Artist Text

Social Pudding Rirkrit Tiravanija and SUPERFLEX 2003
Social Pudding addresses the communities of Leipzig, with dynamic workshops and events focusing on the making and sharing of a plate of pudding. Participants are invited to come to the Pudding Social, to exchange and create their own pudding.

Rather than explore a fabric of society, Social Pudding is interested in the pudding of society, the convergence of social, business, personal and everyday activities.

The pudding product, a combination of distinct layers, consists of orange and coconut flavours. Social Pudding workshops have previously been held in Thailand.

Rirkrit Tiravanija’s dumpling set-up at Gavin Brown’s

Antagonism & Relational Aesthetics Claire Bishop

Rirkrit Tiravanija is a New York-based artist, born in Buenos Aires in 1961 to Thai parents and raised in Thailand, Ethiopia, and Canada. He is best known for

hybrid installation performances, in which he cooks vegetable curry or pad thai for people attending the museum or gallery where he has been invited to work. In Untitled (Still) (1992) at 303 Gallery, New York, Tiravanija moved everything he found in the gallery office and storeroom into the main exhibition space, includ- ing the director, who was obliged to work in public, among cooking smells and diners. In the storeroom he set up what was described by one critic as a “makeshift refugee kitchen,” with paper plates, plastic knives and forks, gas burners, kitchen utensils, two folding tables, and some folding stools.14 In the gallery he cooked curries for visitors, and the detritus, utensils, and food packets became the art exhibit whenever the artist wasn’t there. Several critics, and Tiravanija himself, have observed that this involvement of the audience is the main focus of his work: the food is but a means to allow a convivial relationship between audience and artist to develop.15

Underlying much of Tiravanija’s practice is a desire not just to erode the dis- tinction between instititutional and social space, but between artist and viewer; the phrase “lots of people” regularly appears on his lists of materials. In the late 1990s, Tiravanija focused increasingly on creating situations where the audience could produce its own work. A more elaborate version of the 303 Gallery installation/performance was undertaken in Untitled (Tomorrow Is Another Day) (1996) at the Kölnischer Kunstverein. Here, Tiravanija built a wooden reconstruction of his New York apartment, which was made open to the public twenty-four hours a day. People could use the kitchen to make food, wash themselves in his bathroom, sleep in the bedroom, or hang out and chat in the living room. The catalog accompanying the Kunstverein project quotes a selection of newspaper articles and reviews, all of which reiterate the curator’s assertion that “this unique combi- nation of art and life offered an impressive experience of togetherness to everybody.”16 Although the materials of Tiravanija’s work have become more diverse, the emphasis remains on use over contemplation. For Pad Thai, a project at De Appel, Amsterdam, in 1996, he made available a room of amplified electric guitars and a drumset, allowing visitors to take up the instruments and generate their own music. Pad Thai initially incorporated a projection of Andy Warhol’s Sleep (1963) and subsequent incarnations included a film by Marcel Broodthaers at Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, London (in which the artist writes on a blackboard “you are all artists”). In a project in Glasgow, Cinema Liberté (1999), Tiravanija asked the local audience to nominate their favorite films, which were then screened outdoors at the intersection of two streets in Glasgow. As Janet Kraynak has written, although Tiravanija’s dematerialized projects revive strategies of critique from the 1960s and ’70s, it is arguable that in the context of today’s dominant economic model of globalization, Tiravanija’s itinerant ubiquity does not self-reflexively question this logic, but merely reproduces it.17 He is one of the most established, influential, and omnipresent figures on the international art circuit, and his work has been crucial to both the emergence of relational aesthetics as a theory, and to the curatorial desire for “open- ended,” “laboratory” exhibitions.

Full Text – October Magazine

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